Research Done!

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This idea has been rolling around in my brain for quite some time and I’ve decided to just do it! First step is planning. This will be a full length novel, I hope, with ten chapters and fifty thousand words. Whoa, that sounds daunting so how about I break it down to three hundred twenty or four hundred twenty pages. That’s a bit easier to handle. Breaking that number down even further each chapter of my book should be three to five pages. Hmm, I don’t think I’ll number the chapters.

Next I have to describe each chapter in two sentences. Don’t write down the details! For example, write Chapter One – introduce main characters – set the scene. Do not get bogged down in the particulars; quoting the old TV detective Joe Friday “Just the facts ma’am”. No embellishment is necessary at this point, you are just writing for yourself and this exercise helps get your storyline straight and firms up your main characters.in your mind. I’m amazed at how difficult it is to be disciplined in this phase. Really I just want to dive in and start writing but I truly believe that sticking to this format will help me succeed.

Once all my chapters are finished this way, I will start adding a few more sentences to each segment. But  I must still keep the sentences thin and easy to read with minimal descriptions. Basically at this point I have my main character’s name, her occupation and now I’ll expand by writing about her frame of mind and where she is at the moment. And don’t forget I have outlined all my chapters so am growing each one in turn.

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Starting with Chapter One, I can now focus on getting a feel for my novel. Are there any plot holes that need filling or chapters that feel like nothing is happening? Is my ending rushed? And most importantly, does my story excite me? If the answer to any of these questions is negative, then I have to go back and fix it.

It’s really okay if there are plot holes or slower spots. I’m giving myself permission to rearrange chapters and make plot edits right now. This is where I will fix problems that I found previously. Remember this is still my outline and shifting sentences around is relatively easy at this time.

Warning – this part is downright scary. Have someone read your outline like it’s a novel. Listen to their questions and comments. Don’t answer them right away but do answer them when you actually write the chapters. I think this is one of the hardest things to do. Trusting someone with my thoughts and ideas just makes me sweat. So many things are running through my mind, who do I choose, how do I choose? Oh boy! But this is necessary because I really want people to read my novel and I need the feedback.

Finally I’m going to edit my outline with any feedback provided. When the tweaking is done, I’ll send it back to be read again and edit some more if necessary. If I’m happy with the overall structure I’ll know I’m ready for the final step. I’m ready to WRITE THE DAMN STORY!!!

Who are They?

Whatever you’re writing about in your first novel, the characters in the story have to be believable. Personalities must come out early in the story so readers can relate to them and whatever is influencing them. This is, for me, the first step in creating my book. I am writing a romance so of course I have two main characters and a few additional ones who will also play a part in the mystery of the whole tale.

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Some teachers of writing advise you to develop a long background of detail about each character. This will help the writer know the character and how she will react under stress, happiness, anger or threat. As a writer, I’m not going to describe the family dynamics of each character, but I have to understand their motivations and therefore I have to know their culture, upbringing and family dynamics myself. I have to know how she will react to a situation, to authority, to a fellow worker. So I am now developing my characters and their personalities.

My characters therefore are no longer just a cast but are now thought of as people with personalities. It isn’t easy to develop these people and it is a good idea to write down all the little facets that make up the whole. So not only is my five foot nine inch, red haired heroine a strong minded woman with a bit of a temper, she is also determined to rise through the ranks and advance her career. Even though my readers don’t need more than a few details of why she thinks that way, I ought to have that knowledge because I know it will help me tell her story.

I already know what my characters look like but now I have to delve into their psyche. I need to know how my people think. What are her interests and passions? And what about his? The male characteristics need to be defined as well. Speech is another feature to decide. My female lead doesn’t speak in flowery language, she is a strong, young woman and I need to make her speech show that she is energetic and decisive. I also need to convey her softer side, because she does have one.

Her love interest, I did say this is a romance, is also a strong character and I have to figure out the dynamic between the two. Again it will be important to subtly point out their differences and similarities. After all how will the readers know about their attraction to each other if I don’t tell them through the many small ways people communicate, verbally and non-verbally?

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Next on the list of character development is the motivation for my characters. First on the list is Basic. This one involves survival, failure, curiosity, guilt, desire, and instability. So far none of these really describe my characters reason for being in the situation in which they find themselves although a couple of the qualities are certainly in the story.

Now I have Noble. Love, loyalty, humour, obedience, vengeance, inequality, and dissatisfaction are in this list and my people do have a few of these traits and feelings. Actually all of these words describe certain aspects of the personalities I am crafting.

Going on to Evil. Described as hatred, dishonour, pride, greed, revenge, lust, and jealousy. These traits will be used for a couple of my secondary characters though the two stars aren’t always sweetness and light and will definitely have some sense of a bad feeling.

Finally we have Fear. This has death, humiliation, pain, rejection, loss, regret and shame. These are pretty intense emotions but to some degree all characters will experience them. Every person will, at some point in a story, experience at least one of these.

I hope this helps you understand the work an author has to do to make the characters in any novel come to life. It isn’t an easy job and every writer starts the same way, with a basic storyline and the question who are they, these folks who want me to tell their story.

 

 

 

Loving Language & Words

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Language and words, two of my favourite things. As I told you in a previous blog post, I love to write and now I will tell you that I really love to read as well. What first attracted me to writing was likely the passion I had for reading. If a book could spark my imagination and pull me into the story, I would read until I had finished the whole thing. It was truly the use of language and words that hooked me. So much that, at the age of thirteen, I started writing stories myself. At that time I was really enamoured with poetry and spent a lot of time creating ballads. Still, I did well, according to my eighth grade teacher. Did anything really spur your interest in writing and reading?

But this blog isn’t about my love of reading and writing but more about using the right words and language. One thing that always frustrates me is the use of words to try and prove “I” am better than you. I once had a manager who would use all the so-called big words she knew when talking to us. It didn’t work well as she often didn’t pronounce the words correctly or use them in the right context. So many professionals deliberately use difficult language when they really do not need to do so. What springs to mind? Lawyers, insurance brokers and doctors are all guilty. I’m a nurse and many, many times I’ve had to translate into simpler language for the patient’s understanding. My point here is – use words that everyone can understand. Don’t be condescending, just be natural. Sometimes I’m accused of being too simplistic but when I speak in public I really want people to understand my presentation, not struggle to understand the words I use.

Onto the WORDS! The English language is really great. I can find synonyms for any word I want to use. For example the synonym for “synonym” is equivalent. Why do we use synonyms? To keep our speech and writing from being repetitive. Plain and simple, if for example, you want to describe something as very pretty, you can use beautiful, attractive, cute, appealing. The choices are many. If a word doesn’t seem quite right, if it doesn’t say what I think it should, I head to my thesaurus and I find the synonym. And I don’t need to own a copy of Roget’s Thesaurus, everything you need to know is now online.

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And then there are some of my favourite words, homonyms. These are words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have totally different meanings. Most of us are familiar with the three homonyms there, their, and they’re. These are, I believe, the most misused words I see. Is their misuse caused by a decline in the teaching of English grammar? Maybe. I remember my son coming home from school one day so happy he got an A on an English assignment. He did it well but the word choices and spelling were atrocious. So I asked his teacher why she gave him such a good mark. Her answer was, she was looking for concepts and expression, the spelling or word choice didn’t really matter. Grrr!  Thirty years later, his spelling is much improved, largely due to his mother’s influence I’m sure.

I’m not perfect but I am proud to spell properly and use good sentence structure. But I believe the downgrade in our language and spelling, which seems to have happened over a short period of time, can be directly attributed to the increase of social media communication. In trying to text quickly or fit everything you want to say into the two hundred eighty character allowance on Twitter, people are using short forms and acronyms for many commonly used words and phrases. For your it’s ur, for please it’s pls, If I can’t fit a word into the space I need on twitter, I’ll rephrase the whole sentence. I just can’t really get comfortable not using my words.

So I will remain a fan of language arts and words and continue to try to use them appropriately.

 

 

 

Here I Go Again

 

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For the last eighteen months, I have been serving my city as a local councillor. Yes I am retired from my career as a registered nurse, but still keeping busy. My hubby and I had just sold our Florida mobile home when I got a phone call asking if I would be interested in serving as a councillor. I had lost the 2014 election, love my city and enjoy the give and take of politics, so of course I said yes. I really enjoyed that stint and decided to run in the election of 2018. Sadly I did not win this one either, so I am grateful for the experience of the last year and a half.

Now I am in the process of cleaning out my office in city hall, it amazes me how much paper and paraphernalia I have accumulated, but I have just three file drawers to do and I’m clear. I will continue to go into the office until the end of the month when the new council is sworn in, there are still questions to answer and residents to help. I do believe I have done a good job during my tenure but now it’s time to look forward.

So I ask myself what will I do now? I believe its important to keep our brains active as well as our bodies, so I am writing again. Starting with this blog and maybe, one day, a novel. I’ll try the crafty thing again, though I’m not very good at it. I’d like to have a little home business that doesn’t involve booking parties or selling to my friends and family. We have just moved to a rather large home with our two sons and for half of every month, two grandchildren are here. This will be interesting.

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One benefit is that we are opening boxes we’ve stored for four years. I’ve already sold a couple of things on the local buy and sell site. Hmm maybe this is a business in the making. It won’t make a ton of money but it could be fun and turn a wee profit. I guess that’s one thing to do and judging from the number of boxes, it’ll keep me busy this winter. I discovered some sterling silver pieces that came from my mother and grandmothers, that are quite tarnished. It will take a few days to clean those up and see what they are and if they are worth keeping. We’ve already asked our boys and their wives if they want any of our stuff and got the predicted “no thanks” so I’ll see if I want anything.

I’m going to volunteer with the local Crime Stoppers group and have started knitting scarves for the needy program here. I already have a day trip planned with a friend for next week. If we enjoy ourselves, I’ll write about it. Heck, I’ll write about it even if we don’t enjoy ourselves. And of course we have the Christmas prepping starting soon. I think my days will be pretty busy.

As the saying goes, “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade”.

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But We Just Moved!

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One week after moving into our sweet little apartment, it’s time to begin our winter sojourn to our little mobile home in Florida. Crazy I know but we really don’t like the winter cold anymore and go to great lengths to avoid it. This season the plan was to travel south in November, the high cost of medical insurance and having just found our apartment, it seemed better to wait again until January. Next year I’ll be a better planner, at least I’ll try but, like most New Year’s resolutions, that too might not make it. Ah well; we live in hope.

With just about everything I own still in boxes, I started my vacation packing with the most obvious, clean out my purse. Most people I know wouldn’t consider it essential but when we travel, my purse turns into the repository of everything from passports to gas receipts. Add in a wallet containing American money and my regular Canadian money wallet and my small case for holding all cards, my cell phone, some headache tablets, keys for Florida and home and you can see that it gets really full, really fast. Occasionally I also have to carry the hubby’s wallet and keys also. He complains about the hard time I have finding things once in a while but, he too would be lost without my purse. Now that task is complete, I can move on with the rest of the packing. Clothes and toiletries of course as well as food that would rot if left here for a couple of months and what I consider kitchen essentials that travel everywhere with us. We learned last year that Florida is not always hot and sunny, sometimes it’s not even warm, so a few extra long sleeve shirts and a couple of sweaters were added this year.

We’ve made this trip quite a bit over the years so we basically know how to get to the sunshine state, but I gave the hubby a gps device for Christmas in the hopes it would be good to have for any little side trips we may take. The darn thing still isn’t programmed, we have pages of instructions to follow online and I’m just not that adept at these. Maybe I should give it to my four year old grand daughter to program for me, she seems to be a budding techie.

Next thing I pack is the personal care bag. I take a couple of meds for diabetes, the hubby takes nothing, but I had to sign a paper at the pharmacy swearing I was going on vacation and needed the extra meds. Sheesh, are diabetic medications selling on the black market now? If we feel a cold coming on, I have vitamin “c” and then first aid stuff. Then of course cosmetics, toothbrushes, our preferred soap etc. Why not buy that type of thing after I arrive? Because I have personal preferences that I’m afraid I won’t be able to get elsewhere and I already have a ton of this at home so why waste time and money buying more. Makes perfect sense to me. Besides I always forget something that I have to replace when travelling anyway.

At the end of it, our minivan is well packed with every conceivable necessity. It looks like we’re moving all over again. But even though we just moved, we are ready to do it again! So setting out at four am; or five; maybe six, anyway we avoid the worst of the morning traffic and hit the road. Every trip is an adventure!

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